Originally published by the Watertown Daily Times on 2/18/2021
By: Alex Gault
CLAYTON — A lot of trash ends up in the St. Lawrence River, and Save the River is hoping some new technology will be able to keep the river clean.
According to John Peach, executive director of Save the River and the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper, last year the organization collected three large truckloads of trash from the river during their annual “Trash Free River Cleanup” along the shoreline in Clayton.
“They float in the water of the river, and they have a small pump that circulates water, so trash flows over the top and gets trapped inside in some mesh netting,” he said.
LittaTraps, Mr. Peach explained, are essentially nets that can be installed in storm water runoff drains along the street. The netting catches any trash that washes into the grate before it can make it into the sewer system or the river. They can also be installed in the sewage pipes in an area where the water flows directly into the river.
Mr. Peach said Save the River has already received some interest from local businesses, including a number of marinas, and from the village to have the devices installed.
“Northern Marine said they would put one in, and we talked to the (Antique Boat Museum) and they said they would also put some in,” he said. “And of course, that one corner between DiPrinzio’s restaurant and the town dock — the way it’s situated it always seems to trap trash.”
Mr. Peach said he was seeking a grant to purchase the equipment this year, which fell through, but is optimistic they will find the necessary funding soon.
“If not this year, then in 2022, there are going to be some other grant opportunities to put them in,” he said.
The SeaBins cost about $6,000 per unit, while the LittaTraps can run for about $500 per unit. Mr. Peach said he has no real idea yet of how many would be necessary, but his initial plan was to order as many as the grant the organization receives would allow.
SeaBins have received a lot of international attention due to their widespread use in Australia and Europe. Recently, ecological groups and local governments in Canada began installing SeaBins as well, including in the waters of Lake Ontario along Toronto’s shoreline.
Mr. Peach said he has some concerns the SeaBins would not be able to function year-round in the cold winter waters of the St. Lawrence River, especially once the ice starts to form.
“In Europe and the Mediterranean I think they run them year-round, but our plan has been to put them in in early May and get them out as late in the season as we can work,” he said.
The SeaBins also must be placed in a spot with waves that remain under a foot and a half high, which can get difficult in stormy or busy waters.
Mr. Peach said a volunteer team from Save the River would rotate cleaning duties for the SeaBins, and volunteers would also handle cleaning out the LittaTraps.
“If you put them in the storm drains, you need someone from (the Department of Public Works) to come out and lift those heavy grates,” he said. “That can be a problem, and a challenge.”
Mr. Peach said the inconveniences are far outweighed by the potential benefits though.
“The advantage of the LittaTraps is they catch a lot of cigarette butts and plastic and other material before it can get out into the river,” he said. “And the beauty of the SeaBins is they work non-stop to catch styrofoam cups, plastic water bottles, containers, the little baggies, all the things that float around. For me, that’s a real positive for the river and the environment.”